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Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a common circulatory condition that affects the blood vessels outside the heart and brain. It occurs when narrowed or blocked arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs, usually the legs. PAD can lead to various symptoms and complications, but early diagnosis and management can help improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of serious complications.


Causes: The primary cause of PAD is atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty deposits (plaque) in the arteries. Over time, this plaque narrows the arteries, restricting blood flow.

Risk Factors: Several factors can increase your risk of developing PAD, including:

  1. Smoking: One of the most significant risk factors.

  2. Diabetes: Increases the risk of artery damage.

  3. High blood pressure: Damages artery walls.

  4. High cholesterol: Contributes to plaque buildup.

  5. Age: Risk increases with age, especially over 50.

  6. Family history: If close relatives have PAD.

  7. Obesity: Excess weight strains the circulatory system.


Many people with PAD have no symptoms or mild symptoms. Common signs and symptoms include:

  1. Leg pain: Often aching or cramping in the calf, thigh, or buttock during physical activity (intermittent claudication).

  2. Numbness or weakness: Especially in the legs.

  3. Coldness or color changes: Legs may feel cold or turn pale or bluish.

  4. Sores or ulcers: Slow-healing wounds, typically on the feet.

  5. Poor nail and hair growth: On the affected limb.



If left untreated, PAD can lead to severe complications, including:

  1. Critical limb ischemia: Severe blockages that can lead to tissue damage or even limb loss.

  2. Infections: Slow-healing wounds can become infected.

  3. Stroke or heart attack: Plaque in leg arteries can also affect other arteries.

  4. Pain and reduced mobility: PAD can affect your quality of life.



PAD can be diagnosed through various tests, including:

  1. Ankle-brachial index (ABI): Measures blood pressure in the arms and legs to assess circulation.

  2. Doppler ultrasound: Evaluates blood flow in the arteries.

  3. Angiography: Uses contrast dye and X-rays to visualize blood flow.

  4. MRI or CT angiography: Provides detailed images of the blood vessels.


Treatment aims to relieve symptoms, slow disease progression, and reduce the risk of complications.

It may include:

  1. Lifestyle changes: Quitting smoking, healthy diet, regular exercise, and managing underlying conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

  2. Medications: Blood-thinning medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and medications to manage symptoms.

  3. Angioplasty and stenting: Minimally invasive procedures to open blocked arteries.

  4. Bypass surgery: If arteries are severely blocked, a surgeon can create a new path for blood flow.

  5. Wound care: If you have ulcers or sores, proper wound care is essential.

  6. Exercise therapy: Supervised exercise programs can improve symptoms and walking distance.


Prevention: You can reduce your risk of developing PAD or slow its progression by:

  1. Quitting smoking: The single most effective way to reduce risk.

  2. Managing diabetes and high blood pressure: Follow your healthcare provider's advice.

  3. Healthy diet: Eat a balanced diet low in saturated fats and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

  4. Regular exercise: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.

  5. Medications: As prescribed by your healthcare provider.



Peripheral Artery Disease is a manageable condition, and early diagnosis and lifestyle changes can greatly improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of complications.


Consult your GP if you experience any symptoms or have concerns about your vascular health. Dr Simon Vun, FRACS can provide guidance and develop a personalized treatment plan for you.

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